Peacock Bass are different than any species you've targeted before. Colorful beyond imagination, the tropical import first appeared in Florida waters in the 1950s, but it was in the 1980s and since that the species has blossomed in the southeastern (and now increasingly west into the Everglades) canal systems and connected lakes. They are now targeted by local anglers and travelers alike, with anglers coming from the other side of the world to catch them. Peacock Bass originated in Central and South America, where Brazilian and Costa Rican waters produced them. More than six major species are hunted and (often in some places) eaten. This article is about picking the right rod and reel to catch them.
Rods and reels are a personal preference for anglers. The main factor is matching the tackle to the fish you are targeting, the artificial or live bait you’re using, and the type of water you’re fishing, as well as the structure you’re fishing around, the depth of water you’re in, and other factors concerning the surrounding environment. This stands true no matter where in the world you fish.
Spinning Tackle for Peacock Bass
Spinning Rods: Overall, when considering the best rod for general use, we would have to stand by spinning tackle. They are the easiest to use, capable of catching a decent sized fish, and considering how long they last, how simple they are to use, cost factors, and their ability to put considerable pressure on almost any-sized fish (within reason), they are all around the best rod for any species, and Peacock Bass are no exception.
The canals and connected lakes of southeastern Florida where you will be most likely to catch a Peacock, short of going to Central America, are relatively tight bodies of water. Casting far has an advantage sometimes, but you are not going to have to make life-altering casts to catch these beautiful imported fish. A decent six to seven foot medium power, fast-action rod is best if you're using topwater and other lures most of the time, with a more moderate action rod if you are going to be fishing live baits, like Shad or Golden Shiners, or a dozen other baitfish you can catch in the same waters that hold the watermelons (Peacock Bass look a lot like watermelons swimming around in the gin-clear canals).
Again, you can spend fifty dollars for a rod or you can spend a small fortune for custom rods. It all depends on how passionate you are and how much money you have to spend.
Spinning Reels are manufactured by a wide range of companies. Any manufacturers well known for high-quality and tough spinning reels will do. A spinning reel ranging from sizes 2000, 2500, and 3000 will be well-suited for Peacock Bass and the rods listed above. Gear ratios, drag power, and all the other engineering features are other things to consider, as is price. If you are not comfortable with choosing the right reel for the right rod, find a local independent tackle shop near you. They are usually far more knowledgeable than the personnel at a big box retailer.
Baitcasting Tackle for Peacock Bass
Baitcast Rods and Reels: Well suited for casting artificial lures. A six to seven foot medium power, fast-action rod is best if you're using artificial lures. A moderate action rod is necessary if you are going to be fishing live baits, like Shad or Golden Shiners or a dozen other baitfish. But with a baitcaster rod, you will have more leverage on fighting a Peacock Bass, and they are well-suited for flipping and pitching artificial baits in close range of structure and fish. They are simply better suited for casting artificial baits at Peacock Bass. Every serious Largemouth Bass angler uses them almost exclusively.
Again, how much you decide to spend depends on your preference and budget.
The eyes on these baitcasting rods are much smaller and do not vary from large (nearest the reel and your hand) to small; rather they're all relatively the same diameter. It makes for a more challenging skill set, but once you can throw one well, you can cast more accurately and under much tougher and tighter conditions.
Baitcastng Reels: They require a lot more learning time, and result in a lot more tangles than a spinning reel, but are worth it for the control and fighting power you’ll have once you learn to use them. You can use either a low profile baitcaster or a traditional round bodied reel; both work equally well. Size should be around a 50 to a 100. This is the number most reel manufactures use to size their reels. An example is a Shimano Calcutta 400 round bodied reel is way too big for Peacock Bass, but a Calcutta 50 or 100 is ideal. Gear ratios, drag power, and all the other engineering features are things to consider, as is price.
Note: Monofilament line is much easier to use on a baitcaster reel and causes fewer problems for novice anglers just starting out. In fact, some professionals still prefer monofilament line over braided line for baitcast reels. Start with monofilament line; a 12 lb to 17 lb monofilament line is ideal for the above-sized baitcasting reels for Peacock Bass. If using 17 lb monofilament line, you can get away with not using a leader.
Flyfishing for Peacock Bass Fishing
There are as many great fly rod manufacturers as there are good flies, and we might argue that if you're going to invest in fly fishing rods, the likes of Sage are the most costly but best on the market. That said, rods from Temple Fork catch their fair share of Tarpon, Snook, and other strong, big fish in saltwater and can certainly address your needs for catching Peacock Bass. But the color and look of them breaking the surface and hauling your fly into deep, gin-clear water makes fly fishing deserving of being a part of Peacock fishing.
The best fly rod for fishing Peacock Bass in Florida's canal system and connected waterways is around an eight weight. Since the canals are not that wide and offer lots of structure, you do not have to cast a million miles and you are not likely to need very large flies, nor will you be fighting 50 pound fish (we take that back; some of the canals that connect to coastal waters will produce Tarpon in that range any given day). Eight weight rods–with appropriate weight forward-taper line–will suffice for just about anything you find in here, and can handle a good sized topwater fly or frog bait.
Fly Reels are sized to fit the rod, so an 8 weight reel with a mid-sized arbor is fine. It will hold enough backing and plenty of casting fly line for all your Peacock Bass fishing needs. You can buy them fairly inexpensively, with the Okuma Aluminum reel on the right coming in at around $40 and the beautiful Abel on the left costing the avid Peacock fly fisher well over $600.
Fly Line and Leader: Any 8 weight fly line will work. But the WF8F, which stands for Weight Forward #8 Floating Fly, line is pretty much the all around norm for Peacock Bass. 100 yards or 150 yards of backing is plenty. Leader wise, it’s very easy to buy the knot-less premade leader and tippets in the 2x to 3x range.
Summary of Rods and Reels for Peacock Bass
They all work and trying them all for the experience isn't a bad idea, but considering everything–cost, reliability, necessary skills, and ability to land a very challenging fish– spinning tackle wins out over fly rods/reels and baitcasting equipment. Fly fishing is perfectly suited for fishing these canal systems, and the cost of line, leader, and good flies will set you back slightly more than an equally high-quality spinning rod. Baitcasting tackle–most suited for the artificial lure crowd–will allow you to cast more accurately and gain more leverage on the fish than either fly rods or spinning rods.